Monday, January 2, 2012

Meeting #1: Unaffiliated Rabbi

The first Rabbi I talked to runs an unaffiliated, progressive congregation that she founded herself. I thought she'd be a great person to talk to for a few reasons:

1) She's very smart. I've known her for years, and she's always made me think deeply about things. So I knew she'd help me clarify my thinking.

2) She's progressive and thoughtful about Judaism, but she definitely believes in God. See, I know that part of what's going on here is that the Religious Right (and not just the Christians) have taken over what it means to be religious. Of course that's not literally true, but in the media it's become that way. The Religious people always seem to be fighting for "Intelligent Design" or against abortion or gay marriage, and the Progressives, the people on the side of Science and Reason (i.e. the ones I agree with) always seem to be atheists. So I thought that talking to this Rabbi whom I know to be both Progressive and deeply religious would help me determine whether this Humanist bent of mine is permanent or just a reaction to certain religious people who are doing things I don't like.

3) She has founded a congregation. A great one. One where everyone has a voice and the children grow up thinking seriously about Judaism.

So here's what I took from the meeting:

This Rabbi thinks I should definitely go for it, reach out to people and try to found a congregation. She told me about how her own congregation began and how to do basic outreach, and we talked about some different funding and participation models. She thinks I would make a great Humanistic Rabbi.

But we also talked about some other models. She encouraged me to talk to my own Rabbi (more about that meeting in another post) and to check out Reconstructionism. Many of my ideas about using a secular analysis of scripture and other Jewish texts to create ritual and community events that have deep Jewish meaning are consistent with the philosophies of Reconstructionism. And she also encouraged me to reach out to other secularists in the area, be it Ethical Culture, Workman's Circle or the Jewish Humanists in the city.

And best of all, I'm still in touch with her via e-mail so I get feedback from her as I continue my journey.

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